6 Reasons you may need X-rays at the Dentist

The next time you go to the dentist, you may need to have x-rays taken. Dental x-rays are pictures of the teeth, bone and surrounding soft tissue that allow the dentist to help diagnose problems with the teeth, mouth and jaw. Most offices, like Willow Creek Dental, use digital x-rays rather than the traditional film x-rays you may remember in years past. Digital x-rays produce significantly less radiation, are more comfortable for the patient, and provide higher quality images compared to their film predecessors.

There are several reasons why dental x-rays may be necessary at your next appointment:

  • You are in pain—If you are visiting the dentist because you are having a toothache or other dental pain, the dentist will most likely request that a periapical (PA) x-ray be taken of the tooth that is bothering you. A PA is an x-ray of a single tooth that shows from the top of the exposed tooth to the bottom of the tooth root and surrounding bone. This x-ray helps the dentist see decay, locate an abscess or determine what else may be causing the pain.


  • You are going for a regular check-up—If you visit the dentist for a cleaning every 6 months, you will most likely have bitewing x-rays taken every other appointment (once a year). Bitewing x-rays show the upper and lower back teeth, allowing the dentist to look for decay between the teeth that is not visible to the naked eye or not yet causing pain. It can also show the effects of gum disease in the form of bone loss.


  • This is your first visit to a new dentist—If you are a new patient to a dental office, they will most likely request that a full mouth series of x-rays be taken (FMX). The FMX is a series of 18 x-rays that includes bitewings and periapical x-rays. This gives the dentist a clear view of each tooth and allows them to look for decay and bone loss. Typically, an FMX is taken every 3 – 5 years and gives the dentist a good baseline to compare future x-rays to. If you have had an FMX taken in recent years, you may request that the images be sent electronically to the new office. If the x-rays are outdated (on film) or not of good quality, however, the dentist may request to have a new FMX taken.


  • You still have your wisdom teeth—If you still have your wisdom teeth (3rd molars), the dentist may request that a panoramic x-ray be taken. This x-ray shows all of the teeth in the entire mouth, including teeth that have not yet erupted. If your wisdom teeth are present (either fully erupted or still impacted in your bone), your dentist may recommend that they be removed to prevent future problems such as difficulty brushing and flossing or simply lack of space in your mouth. The dentist or oral surgeon will use the panoramic x-ray to look at the wisdom teeth, their level of impaction and angle to determine how extensive or difficult the tooth removal process will be.


  • You are considering orthodontics—Whether you or your child are considering orthodontics, the dentist will need to take a panoramic x-ray to look at the position and form of the teeth to decide if orthodontic treatment is advisable and which course of treatment would be most effective (i.e. traditional orthodontics, Invisalign, etc.). Even for children as young as seven, the orthodontist can look at the panoramic x-ray to see how future permanent teeth will erupt and also determine a timetable as to when to ideally start orthodontic treatment. It can also help them decide if baby teeth should be removed to make room for the permanent teeth to come in.


  • You need Dental Implants, have Obstructive Sleep Apnea or suffer from TMJ Disorder—If you fall into any of these categories, you will need to have a Cone Beam CT (CBCT) x-ray taken. CT imaging provides clear images of the bone, soft tissue, muscle, airway and blood vessels to allow our doctors to look at a complete picture when planning for dental implants and treating patients for Obstructive Sleep Apnea or TMJ Disorder. Willow Creek Dental has a CBCT machine in our office, something not typically found in most dental offices.


So the next time you are told you need to have x-rays taken, know that your oral health is the top priority and there is always a sound reason for the request.

Source: willowcreekdds.com Blog